If for no other reason, the Series was memorable in that the A's players finally upstaged their boss. Not that Finley went unobserved. He was sued by Mike Andrews, the martyr of the 1973 Series, charged with contractual violations by Hunter and accused by First Baseman Gene Tenace of using Manager Alvin Dark as a puppet—not an entirely unfamiliar indictment.
Still, Finley did his best to dance his way into our hearts. He welcomed as a Series seatmate Lucianne Buchanan, the incumbent Miss California. During the first game in Oakland it was solemnly announced to the multitudes over the Coliseum public-address system that Charlie O. would shortly be telephoning President Ford to ask him to throw out the first ball at either of the next two games. The phone was clearly visible resting in front of Finley on the roof of the Oakland dugout. The white-maned, green-jacketed owner seemed puffed up with importance. Newsmen were later advised that because of the press of business, the President had asked for a rain check.
But Charlie O.'s quest for a first-ball-tosser was not that easily sidetracked. Minutes later, the reporters were told over the press speaker system that Finley had urged Richard M. Nixon to come out of retirement and handle the first-ball chores. Nixon, as is his wont lately, "regretfully declined because of health reasons." Finley had managed to develop ordinary tastelessness into something transcendental.
He also called a melodramatic team meeting before the fourth game, at which nothing more consequential than Buckner's unkind appraisal of the A's was on the agenda. Snapped Jackson, "I don't need no pre-game dump to rev me up."
True, the A's are self-starters. They were under tough Dick Williams and they are under God-fearing Alvin Dark, who herded them through the playoffs and World Series quicker than the more renowned Williams ever did. When asked what the essence of the team is, Bando replied without hesitation, "Character. We have a nucleus of guys who give 100% 100% of the time. These are people who are not just satisfied with making a big salary. They want more than that. They want to win."
It is a pity that such stalwarts should so continually be subjected to embarrassment, either by their owner's actions or their own. As true champions, they deserve better, although it is difficult to perceive where they will get it. They seem destined to wear the cap and bells.
Rumors have persisted almost since Finley's arrival in Oakland six years ago that he would soon leave the Bay Area baseball market to the San Francisco Giants and transfer his franchise to a more receptive community—New Orleans, perhaps, or Toronto, Seattle or Washington, D.C. The rumors were revived virtually on the eve of the Series, prompting a familiar denial by Robert T. Nahas, president of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Inc., the nonprofit corporation that manages the ball park.
"In order to assure the fans and press of the stability of the franchise in Oakland," said Nahas, "we want to repeat that our long-term lease with Mr. Finley started on the first day of April 1968 and continues through the last day of the 1987 baseball season."
Jackson, Bando, Rudi, North, Campaneris, Hunter, Blue, Holtzman, Fingers and the rest may be a bit long in the tooth by 1987 and their manager might well be Tatum O'Neal. So figure on a seven-game Series that year.